A year without Switzerland is a year lost! Every time I visit Switzerland, I wonder if this country has any limit of beauty. Probably not, and maybe that’s why it is one of the most addictive and electrifying destinations in Europe. And fall seems like the most beautiful time to visit Switzerland.
This year I decided to visit the Jungfrau region, which I have long-awaited, and let me tell you, I haven’t had such a magical journey for a long time!
Jungfrau region – location and the most important information
Although there are many places in Switzerland where you can find breathtaking landscapes, the Jungfrau region is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful.
The Jungfrau region and the Bernese Alps is charming place with lakes, snow-capped Alps, villages, romantic medieval towns with very nice and friendly locals. The most important cities in the Jungfrau region include Grindelwald, Mürren, Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken, Unterseen and Wenge.
The region is part of the Bernese Oberland and lies at the foot of the Bernese Alps. It consists of two valleys south of Interlaken: Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. Their waters are drained by the Lütschine River. The land owes its name to the highest mountain in the area – Jungfrau (4158 m above sea level). It is also dominated by two other peaks: the Eiger and the Mönch.
The Jungfrau region is one of the most important tourist centers of Switzerland and the Alps, also known for its lakes – the most beautiful of which include Thun and Brienz.
Both valleys mentioned above are accessible by several railway lines: Bernese Oberland Railway, Wengernalp Railway, and Jungfrau Railway. There are also numerous cable cars. It is easy to get around without a car. And I highly recommend it, because the views from trains and cable lines are simply stunning and guarantee one hundred percent admiration for each place you visit.
Fall in Jungfrau – why is it a great idea?
The Alps in fall, that is, the contrast of snow-capped peaks and colorful leaves, are fabulous, and the fog sweeping over the landscape only adds mystery. In addition, there are many events related to local folklore and Swiss traditions that are one of a kind in the fall.
Although the weather is changeable in fall, in my opinion, it is worth taking the risk because these misty landscapes and peaks drowning in clouds are a completely different experience – poetic, mysterious, mesmerizing.
I visited the region in early October, and it seems like it was a perfect time to do so. Lots of sun, but misty and photogenic mornings and evenings, and the temperature ideal for the hikes. In addition, there are much fewer tourists in the off-season, which really has only advantages and allows you to enjoy the fantastic nature of Switzerland in peace.
How to get to Jungfrau?
Within Europe, the easiest way to get to Switzerland is to fly to Zurich, for example, with SWISS airlines.
And when already there? You will move in a very simple and very picturesque way. Trains run to the Jungfrau region from Switzerland’s four largest cities: Zurich, Geneva, Basel, and the capital city of Bern. I absolutely love to travel around Switzerland by train! The railway routes from each of the above-mentioned cities are beautiful and are a huge attraction themselves. However, the Zurich- Lucerne- Interlaken connection is the most beautiful of these scenic routes.
If you decide to travel around Switzerland by public transport, I highly recommend purchasing a Swiss Travel Pass. With this pass, you get unlimited trains tickets, including the panoramic trains, ships, and buses for 3, 4, 8, and 15 consecutive days. It also includes discounts on cable cards, admission to around 500 museums, and public transport in 90 cities.
Now there is also a great promo offer: there is a 25% discount on tickets purchased until December 12th. Tickets are valid for up to 11 months with free cancellation one day before departure. More information can be found HERE. The easiest way is to buy tickets and plan your trip in the great SBB mobile app.
The current entry requirements for Switzerland – COVID-19
From September 20, 2021, to enter Switzerland, you must meet the following requirements:
- you need to register using the electronic form that must be completed before coming to Switzerland (for travelers with all types of transport);
- you must be tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 (it should be a PCR test performed on a sample taken within the last 72 hours or an antigen test performed within the last 48 hours before arriving in Switzerland).
The following are exempt from the obligation to perform the test:
- persons who have been vaccinated in the last twelve months with a full course of a vaccine (usually two doses) approved for use by the European Union or Switzerland,
- people who had COVID-19 and recovered in the last six months.
Best accommodation options in Jungfrau region
As the region is very well connected and every place can be reached by train and cable cars, I had one accommodation for the whole week-long trip. And it was a great choice because I didn’t have to worry about packing and moving things, but I could focus entirely on exploring the area instead. I thought about a few other towns, but after all, decided on Wengen and the very cozy Alpenruhe – Vintage Design Hotel with delicious breakfasts made of local products. It was a good decision because Wengen is not only easily accessible from other places in the region – the cable car and trains go here from early morning to late evening – it is much less touristic than Murren (so hotel prices are more affordable). At the same time, it has more extensive dining and hotel facilities, which makes it easy to be a tourist, especially in the off-season and in a pandemic, when many restaurants are closed.
The most interesting places to see and things to do in the Jungfrau region
I spent 5 whole days in Jungfrau. It was an intense trip, I was squeezing most of it from morning to evening, but I managed to easily do everything I planned. I listed all my favorite, recommended places below in no particular order because first of all, much depends on the weather and it is worth deciding whether to visit them the day before, to make sure that the visibility and conditions in the mountains will make it possible to implement the plan. And secondly, I do not want to impose any order on you, because when staying overnight in Wengen, all these places are distant from each other and it takes from several minutes to max. 1.5 hours by public transport to get there, so you can freely change the order and make decisions on the fly. I am sure of one thing, and I solemnly confirm that if you choose anything from this list – you will be delighted because Jungrfau is one of those places where you are amazed at every step. So let’s get into it!
Grand Train Tour: Zurich – Lucerne – Interlaken
The Grand Train Tour in Switzerland is a network of scenic rail routes that connect the largest and most important cities in this beautiful Alpine country. On the way, you can admire mountain panoramas, lakes, churches, and castles. To reach the Jungfrau region from Zurich, you first need to travel to Lucerne and then to Interlaken. It is also worth dedicating some time to those two cities.
Lucerne is a historic city with the Lake of the four forested settlements and is perfect for a fall walk, shopping, and dining in a restaurant. You can visit the Old Town. From the Chapel Bridge, walk along the River Reuss. After you pass the Jesuit Church and the Spreuer Bridge, walk to the Lion Monument and continue your walk along Lake Lucerne.
The charming Interlaken, on the other hand, located between lakes Thun and Brienz, is an excellent place for a relaxing stay. It offers plenty of shopping and dining options, very useful after a day of hiking and sightseeing. It is a great place for shopping, especially watches, chocolate and all kinds of souvenirs. For an afternoon rest, visit the Höhematte park. The city’s biggest attractions include train trips, cable car rides to the mountain peaks, and ferry cruises on the lakes of Brienz or Thun.
More about Interlaken and one of its most amazing hikes: Interlaken and Augstmatthorn trail – the most awaited hike in Switzerland
The picturesque Lauterbrunnen Valley with the town of the same name is situated among rocky cliffs, alpine meadows, and 72 waterfalls, the most beautiful of which include Trümmelbach (the so-called underground waterfalls) and Staubbach. The whole hike through the valley to its upper part – Sichellauenen and the return take about 3-4 hours. You can take the tunnel lift to the top from the valley, then climb the stairs and admire the waterfalls from various viewpoints. The view from the top is impressive. As a curiosity, it is worth mentioning that the Lauterbrunnen valley was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien when inventing Rivendell – the land of the elves.
Hike to Lake Bachalpsee and First Cliff Walk
A trip to Bachalpsee – a beautiful alpine lake – is breathtaking. It is located at an altitude of 2265 m above sea level and is divided by a natural dam into two smaller reservoirs. Its smaller part is 6 m lower than the larger one. The Bachalpsee hike is worth combining with the First Cliff Walk, a short but exciting cliff walk. When you reach the First peak in Grindelwald, turn left and climb up to the viewpoint with amazing views. The terrace rises 45m above the precipice, so I would not recommend it for people afraid of heights!
Hike to Bachalpsee was my most beautiful day in the Jungfrau region. See why here: The most beautiful and easiest hike in Switzerland from Grindelwald to Lake Bachalpsee
Cog railway – Schynige Platte
Schynige Platte offers a great experience that begins the moment you step into its open carriages. And the higher the train gets, the more breathtaking the view of the mountains it offers. The wooden benches in the carriages and the historic XVIII-century train radiate the old-fashioned charm of bygone days and bring back the spirit of a bygone era. Mountain station at an altitude of 1967 m above sea level is the starting point for various mountain hikes. It is also home to an Alpine garden with around 650 species of plants. Perhaps the most magnificent view is from the panoramic restaurant “Schynige Platte”, where you can stop for a delicious Swiss meal.
Fall towns: Mürren, Wengen
I find it hard to resist Swiss towns. They are so perfect, fairytale, and they look beautiful at any time of the year. You don’t even have to do anything special in them, just take a walk, stop for a coffee and a piece of apple strudel, and just be there. And the Jungfrau region has some truly unique, picturesque towns that are worth including in your trip plan.
Mürren is a former settlement of the Lötschen people in Wallis and is still recognizable today for its distinctive house designs and the Mürren dialect. It is the highest situated and continuously inhabited rural settlement in the canton of Bern. It is situated at an altitude of 1650 meters above sea level, high above the Lauterbrunnen valley. Two cable cars lead here – from Lauterbrunnen and from Stechelberg – alongside beautiful waterfalls and rocky walls. They reach the center of the car-free village first, and then to the top of Schilthorn (2970 m above sea level). Mürren looks the most beautiful for me in fall, just like Wengen.
Wengen, where I stayed, lies on a sunny plateau sheltered from the wind at the foot of the Jungfrau, 400 m above the Lauterbrunnen valley (1274 m above sea level). This traditional, car-free village offers family-friendly ski and walking areas around Männlichen and Kleine Scheidegg. With its romantic wooden houses and numerous scattered belle époque accommodation, it has retained the mountain village nature of the postcard. From 1893, Wengen can be reached from Lauterbrunnen on the Wengernalp Railway. This trip was my favorite moment at the end of each day of exploring the region.
The village of Grindelwald in the Eiger in the Bernese Oberland is located in a deep green depression. It is surrounded by a fabulous mountain landscape overlooking the Eiger and Wetterhorn north face. The numerous viewpoints and attractions make Grindelwald one of the most popular and cosmopolitan holiday and excursion destinations in Switzerland and the largest ski area in the Jungfrau region. The history of tourism in this place dates back to the end of the XVIII century, when the first guests, mainly the English, came here. There is 300 km of hiking trails around Grindelwald with great views, perfect for walks in the fall season.
From the top of the Schilthorn (2970 meters above sea level), there are fantastic views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau (that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and over 200 other peaks! The cable car ride to the top consists of four stages. It runs every half hour from Stechelberg in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Schilthorn became famous for filming here in 1969, scenes for the In Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which was part of the James Bond movie series. The revolving restaurant at the top, which rotates around its axis once every 45 minutes, owes its present name “Piz Gloria” to this film production. Here, you can follow in the footsteps of Bond at the interactive Bond World exhibition or on Avenue of the Stars 007. The Skyline Walk at Birg Central Station lets you gaze into the abyss below. You can also take the Thrill Walk, a 200-meter long rocky path leading down among the vertical walls of the rock massif.
Other attractions in the Jungfrau region
Among other attractions in the Jungfrau region, you should also consider:
- a trip to Lake Oeschinen at 1578 m above sea level. It is located right above Kandersteg, a small alpine resort. It is a great place, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List,
- getting to know the vicinity of the town of Adelboden with the Engstligen waterfall,
- a trip to Blausee – the beautiful Emerald Lake near Kandersteg. It is one of the most popular travel destinations in Switzerland,
- visiting the Ice Palace at the top of Jungfraujoch,
- going to the town of Winderswil. It is also a good base for exploring the area,
- visiting Brienz – one of the most charming towns in the Jungfrau region, located at the eastern end of Lake Brienzersee,
- seeing the Giessbach waterfall and a ride on the oldest tourist funicular railway in Europe – Giessbachbahh. You can also get here by boat from Brienz station or cross the forest,
- a trip to the idyllic village of Iseltwald, drowning in flowers, a steamboat ride on Lake Brienzersee,
- a train ride to Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe,
- visiting the village of Frutigen near Lake Thun,
- visiting Thun – one of the charming little medieval towns, known as the gateway to the Bernese Oberland. It is the first main stop on the train from Bern. There is a beautiful castle in Thun,
- getting to the summit of Mt Neisen (2362 m above sea level), located very close to Lake Thun, known as the Swiss Pyramid,
- reaching the peak of Stockhorn (2190 m above sea level). You can climb it in the fall.
The tradition of cows decorated with flowers coming down from the mountains for the winter
In September, cows that have been spending all summer on alpine pastures in the Alps all summer since June come down to the villages. This celebration is called poya or inalpe in French. The cows are chased away by shepherds called senn (German) or armailli (French). Dairy cows and antique horse carts are decorated with flowers. The cow herding village is decorated with typical Swiss regional music. There is no shortage of accordionists, groups playing alpine instruments, wind orchestras, village orchestras, and yodel choirs. Surrounded by beautiful mountain views, a really good spectacle is created.
Other interesting fall traditions in the Jungfrau region
The most picturesque folklore festivals take place in the Jungfrau region. In addition to the festival as mentioned earlier with cows, in fall, there are, among others:
- at the beginning of September, the famous Swiss Black Nose sheep, which grazed wild all summer on high alpine pastures, must return to the farm in the valley – the cows go down the same routes later on in the month of September,
- There is a tradition of cheese sharing at Lake Thun, which is called Chästeilet. This takes place, inter alia, in the village of Justistal,
- in accordance with a true Swiss tradition, the end of summer is celebrated with the music of yodeling choirs and Swiss accordionists,
- a wine festival takes place in Spiez on the fourth Sunday of every September,
- Ausschiesset is a festival with a tradition dating back to the XVI century. It is a commemoration of the end of the shooting club training in a given season. The event takes place in the city of Thun in mid-September each year.
The material was created in cooperation with Switzerland Tourism Organization and the Swiss Embassy in Poland